Culture lag


Senior Member
She threw back her head and shrieked. He took a step backward, looking around to see if anyone had heard her, to see if maybe a policeman was running over to see what kind of awful thing that young fellow was doing to the old lady who was sitting on the sidewalk with her shoes off. Culture lag, he thought distractedly, what fun it all is.
Source: The Stand by Stephen King
Context: Rita became petulant when Larry kept apologising for losing his temper. Rita got 30 years on Larry. They had met few days earlier in the Park and partnered up. They had decided to leave New York and head New England. The superflu had passed through and decimated most of the population. Wearing an open-toes sandal, the ankle-straps chafed through her skin. Larry reprimanded her for wearing such footwear for their inter state journey walk.

I understand the meaning of the term cultural lag as defined by the American socialist William Ogburn. However, I find hard to fathom Larry's thinking of cultural lag for Rita's reaction.

Could the culture lag term in this context refer to either a generation gap (given their age difference) or cultural differences (she used to be more cultured as she enjoyed a more privileged lifestyle in the previous life, before the occurance and the widespread of the superflu).

What is your interpretation of cultural lag?

Thank you.
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  • Kwistax

    Senior Member
    français - Belgique
    With the whole context you give, I understand the expression as a way to describe the strange and ridiculous impression this old lady wearing kid shoes and crying like a baby sitting on the sidewalk can give.
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    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It seems that in this novel there are dead people lying around - some kind of disaster has taken place, and the normal way of life has been completely disrupted. In this situation, nobody would rightly pay any attention whatsoever to an old lady shouting out in the street. In fact, it seems to be the kind of Stephen King situation where law and order has broken down completely - but this young man's sense of morality and fear of possible punishments for social transgressions has failed to adjust to the new reality. That's the cultural lag, in my opinion. (I haven't read the book.)
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